Samantha — Sam, as most of her colleagues call her — is a woman on the move. She not only leads an initiative by the same title for JPMorgan Chase, which empowers women inside and outside of the firm, but knows firsthand the importance of sponsors in promoting career growth.
“A sponsor is someone you can consider as your career advocate,” Sam explains. “A person who has power and influence in the organization and can help you advance — somebody who talks about you behind closed doors, recommending you to people, for promotions and stretch assignments.”
On the other hand, “A mentor is someone who might coach you, give you guidance or act as a sounding board. But they are not necessarily a person who can help manage your career our advance you forward.”
For many of us, today’s workplace is hybrid. What does that mean in attracting or growing a relationship with a sponsor? Sam weighs in on what is most effective.
Broaden Your Base
“Go out there and network across your organization. Be there when it matters. If you’re on a hybrid schedule, go into the office when you know certain people will be there — when there is a special meeting or maybe a social event. Make your time in the office count. It’s important to let people know who you are. This is one way of signaling that you are ready for sponsorship and advancement.
There are more virtual networks than ever before to not only connect with potential sponsors but grow those relationships. Take advantage of them. LinkedIn is a great example.”
Ask Yourself: What Can I Give a Sponsor?
“Don’t turn potential sponsors off by only asking for their help: Can you put in a good word for me about getting this opening? Can you help me meet this person? Sponsorship is a two-way relationship, and you can be a valuable resource to a sponsor as well.
As a potential “sponsee”, you have a lot to offer. Know what your sponsor is interested in or what their area of expertise is. Be on the lookout for articles, stories, or anything else that may be useful to them. Proactively send it along with a note — ‘thought you’d be interested in this.’ By doing this, you are showing them that you have taken the time to support what they need.
Also, you may be a good source of information of what is really happening at the lower levels of the organization that they may not be privy to. Conversely, you can promote their projects — let people in your network know about their initiatives. Sponsorship is a relationship where both can benefit.”
Don’t Lose Touch
“Keep visible and cultivate your network, well before you need or want a new job. Stay in touch—you need to make sure you’re on people’s radar. Grow these relationships by following up with people, especially if they have given you feedback. You might not agree with it but spend time reflecting on it. Let them know you took their advice and are appreciative. This gives people a sense that you made good use of their time.”
Here are three approaches to finding a sponsor:
Be the Expert
“Develop a skill. Maybe you’re the best researcher or salesperson or the best with client relationships. People will know to come to you and seek out your perspective. Sponsors gravitate toward people that have an expertise, because it can help get their work done better.”
Be a Go-Getter
“Be someone who volunteers to do things above and beyond their job. You are giving out the message that you can solve problems, get the work done, and go beyond the call of duty. That’s very attractive to a potential sponsor. “
Be a Connector
“Go out there and network. Use those opportunities to connect with people even if it’s not work-related. There are so many instances where people bond over shared hobbies and interests, and very often that spills over into a work relationship that you can develop.”
Get to Know Sam
You oversee Women on the Move at the company, and you have been an empowerment advocate for years. What are the major challenges career women are facing as we try to figure out the “new normal?”
“I would say, number one, women still have the extra burden of taking care of family and their households, which never went away and was exacerbated by the pandemic. Also, there’s unconscious bias that prevents women from progressing at the same rate as men.”
You have a daughter! How do we “grow girls” strong and powerful?
“I think being a working parent, a working mother, is the first way I can role model for my daughter and my sons that women belong in the workforce. It shows that women also have ambitions, and they should rise as high as their capabilities and desires allow. I also encourage my daughter to play sports, and get involved in science, technology, engineering and math projects.”
Who saw something in you growing up, that you did not see in yourself? Who was that person and what did they see?
“I had an English teacher in middle school that I stayed in touch with. He gave me that confidence to write, and I ended up becoming a professional writer. After college, I was a reporter and I love writing to this day.”
We’ve seen through the pandemic how important self-care is. What are the things you do for yourself no matter how busy you get?
“Exercise to me is an important part of my day-to-day. I try to work out daily, even if it’s brief. I also make time, even if it’s during a busy week, for small breaks, those moments of downtime. They are like mini vacations for me.”